Monday, July 31, 2006

Development prospects after elections in the DRC

Last Sunday 30 July 2006 has been historic for Africa as the Demaocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held democratic elections after 46 years. Now that Congolese have cast their votes, let’s have a look at what comes next in terms of development.

Independent since June 1960 from Belgium colonialism and despite its vast and diverse mineral resources, the DRC has not done well in terms of development. Part of the reason is that former governments have only promoted elitist enrichment at the expense of impoverished vast majority of Congolese.

Though far from home, I have been following very closely how elections have been prepared and run, hence I share my views here about the prospect of development in the post electoral DRC.

I have a mixed feeling about my country: hope and fear. Hope comes from the fact that these elections constitute an opportunity for longlasting peace and an opportunity for paving the way for reconstruction. Fear comes from the fact that the country is in a total development mess and chaos that even an elected government might just get confused to prioritize its actions and fail to kick start reconstruction. I still do not know which way the country will take, but I wish the best.

Since the Argentinean referee blew the final whistle in Germany with the crowning of Italy as the soccer world champion, my eyes are off screen and that allows me to devote at least an hour analyzing some six (of whom a lady) candidates’ agendas and discourses in the presidential race.

Indeed, despite one's will to track all candidates, you easily get confused as 33 people are contending for the single presidential seat. Had I been a political researcher or analyst, embarking in such an exercise would be a passionate thing.

My personal analysis led me to three observations about predidential in the DRC:

  • either a good diagnosis of the situation by presidential contenders
  • or a campaign marred by a demagogic discourse; and lastly
  • More wish lists than coherent development agendas;

When critically watching and reading news covering the DRC presidential campaign, a well-informed listener learns that most candidates have tailored their discourses to what attendees want to hear (The Voice of America, Radio France International, RadioOkapi, Channelafrica, SABC, the Star, Business Day, Financial Times, etc ).

There is no doubt that most of them have an accurate reading of the illnesses the country has been suffering from for years. Though most of them have been associated to and account for the poor development results achieved in the country, no one dared to provide explanations for that. Lesson to learn: the 'business as usual' argument likely to persit.

Some contenders went far by finger pointing others for being worse than them. Using means at their disposal: food, t-shirts and even money; contenders drew crowds to attend their public addresses. To show how demagogic this has been, most attendees promised not to vote for people they received these things from. “ It is my right to accept whatever I was given since all these things are part of the national wealth these people looted…but my behavior does not give any of them the right to claim my vote”, argued one of them.

Despite the knowledge and awareness candidates displayed, the issue however, is when it comes to how they indent to surmount the very same issues they diagnosed. To treat the chaos the country is in, most candidates enumerated long and long lists of what their intentions for reconstruction are. I don't recall one practically getting to the 'how'.

Despite that and whatever the outcome of these elections and despite its loopholes, I strongly believe that the country would have made a giant step further. I do side along with those who still hope that these elections may give to an elected Congolese government an opportunity to consolidate peace and kick-start reconstruction and development.

The challenge however, would be how well does the next ruling class maneuvers some of the development challenges the country faces: pacifying the great lake region and reconciling national and neighbor countries interests, consolidating peace, revitalizing diplomatic representations, visible presence in international decision-making fora, improving public governance and annihilating corruption, updating, recycling and building a new bureaucracy, demarcating political careers from bureaucratic careers, insulating bureaucratic career from political and ethnical affiliation, paving a way for youth to enter an expert-based bureaucratic career path, ensuring state and governance continuity, designing coherent and sound development policies and programmes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Data gathering

Almost two months have gone since I started my internship at Central African Gold (CAG) and the experience is so exciting .

I have been working on different tasks and that keeps me quite busy. One of the things I have been doing is collecting and analyzing information related to social aspects of mining. This is quite fascinating in a mining environment and most important to me is that sustainable growth is part of CAG’s vision.

To get back to data collection, which is something I have been good at for years and I am rarely worried about generating meaningful information. Moreover, being a French speaker gives me easy access to the literature from some French countries where CAG operates.

Despite all these advantages and available resources at CAG for one to fulfill his/her tasks, it happened that I encountered some challenges related to generating information:

  • Value and accuracy;
  • Access; and
  • Timeframe;

Whenever I am given a data-generating task, the first thing I do is to locate and collect information. Time management is very important here because I remember once to found my self spending much time collecting and trying to access information. In the aftermath, I was overwhelmed with data to analyze in such a short period of time. Good for me as I got it right and learned about managing my time at work.

Accessing data and getting valuable information is another good challenge I am learning to deal with. Some data are just useless and can cost one's time. What a nightmare if you spend all your time on that. When you know exactly what is needed you can still avoid that trap.

The another thing is that if you get something approximate to what is required, there is a reason for one to feel upset, especially if your supervisor cares for accuracy and validity. For the first time I got approximate information I was so stressed. In fact, there was not enough available information but I managed to get the best available. Though I was not blamed, I felt anxious about it.

I am quite happy here at CAG because many people have been helping me to get some information that are relevant to my tasks and I am learning to effectively manage the challenges related to data gathering. Analysis is another thing I like, but so far I have not been analyzing much and that is still to come. Nonetheless I feel happy about the feedback for some analysis I have submitted already. It is such a pride when you provide valuable information and I wish to do that as long as I am at CAG.